In the last issue, I introduced some classical albums I listened to in the new listening room, which opened in March at Audio Note's headquarters, and this month three jazz albums follow. The extraordinary playback system has an Audio Note G-1000 pre-amplifier and a Kagura2 power amplifier. The CD player is Esoteric GrandiosoK1, and the speakers are B&W 801D. Among the CDs I brought, the following three gave me the groove unique to jazz, exciting enough to make me lose track of time listening to them.
First, I listened to a popular Blue Note album, “Us Three” by the Horace Parlan trio, with a bluesy touch, on a 45rpm LP remastered by Music Matters in 2008. The original LP version has exquisite taste, but the power of the 45rpm LP is also tremendous. I even had a sense of each instrument bursting out of the speakers.
I was astonished by George Tucker's strong bass sound at the beginning of the first track, ＜US Three.＞ Then I had a feeling of getting goosebumps from the reality of Al Hareood's brushwork as if I could even see the movements of his hands. Along with the dynamic touches of the piano that almost beat the keys, George Tucker's exciting bass acts as the driving force of the trio and leads the performance. And the original blues, ＜Wadin,＞ slowly picks up steam. The thumping and bold bass sound is one of the characteristics of Blue Note, but here I've got the impression that it is even heavier. It is just a completely different level of performance as if steam is rising! As is true with all of Blue Note’s 45rpm discs, their performances have gained a new charm by making them with 45rpm. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the fun of jazz audio.
Samara Joy, who became famous overnight and won “Best New Artist” and “Best Jazz Vocal Album” at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, is only 23 years old. With a youthful and effervescent spirit, Samara sings with emotions and versatility reminiscent of Ella Jane Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, and she delivers her music with assured expressiveness that convinces anyone without question. Her debut album, “Samara Joy” (2021), was a wonderful work, but the album played in the listening room was her Grammy Award-winning album “Linger Awhile,” released last fall. The title track is an old novelty song written in the 1920s, but Samara Joy sings it as a fast-paced, up-tempo number as if it were a contemporary song.
It is pleasant to feel so much jazzy charm emanating from every song. Also noteworthy is her skill in ballads, singing such classics as ＜Misty＞ and ＜Round Midnight＞ with excellent control of the melody. It is just breathtaking! We should also note that an up-and-coming guitarist Pasquale Grasso participates as a backup band member. ＜Someone to Watch Over Me,＞ accompanied only by Grasso, is also worth listening to. Samara Joy sings not only in the most authentic way of jazz vocals but also with her contemporary sense and unique personality. The album is almost perfect, but as I listened to it again, I strongly felt she has great potential for the future.
I brought a new album by Hatsune Hirakura, one of the most notable young pianists in Japan today, because I was interested in how the atmosphere it has would be reproduced in the Audio Note listening room. The trio, consisting of her, veteran alto saxophonist Atsushi Ikeda and bassist Yosuke Inoue, is slightly different from an ordinary piano trio. They made the recording at the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum, left by the famous artist, and I feel that the spirit of his atelier may have had a subtle influence on the trio's performance.
Only famous standard numbers were selected for this album, with the opening ballad, ＜Embraceable You,＞ showing impressive piano touches that combine suppleness and strength. The flow of the piece, starting with a duo of the piano and the bass, and then the saxophone added in the second half, is also very sophisticated. And the balance of the trio is dazzling! Though Hirakura has an album with all original pieces titled “Tears,” she has a strong presence in this album, which consists of selected famous numbers. Not only her piano but also the saxophone and the bass had warm and real sounds reminiscent of the atmosphere of the atelier.
Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to JAZZ JAPAN, STEREO, and others. He joined a big band, Shiny Stockings, as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).